Tigers and Bears…The Moscow Circus

This weekend I attended the Old Moscow Circus.  I have two memories of the circus from when I was in college and came to Russia for a few days: people drinking vodka from cans and monkeys being thrown across the stage.  This time I was on the lookout for vodka in a can to have a complete Russian experience, but they weren’t selling it.  You could buy gin and tonic in a can. I passed and settled for popcorn and ice cream.  I am happy to report that there was no monkeys being thrown.

The Old Moscow Circus is one of the oldest in Russia and was founded in 1880.  About 20 years ago they renovated the building and it can now seat 2,000 people.  Ringling Brothers, when they perform in NY, is held at Madison Square Garden, which can accommodate about 20,000 people.  There was something really nice about seeing the circus in such an intimate venue.

As mentioned in my last post, New Year’s is the big holiday in Russia. The circus had a holiday theme and involved characters from Russian folklore. A New Year’s Eve story was interwoven between traditional circus acts.  Baba Yaga, a hunchbacked witch who is known to steal children (and eat them) and her accomplice Koschei the Deathless, who looks like a skeleton, were trying to stop time  Their plan was that if they stopped time, the holidays would never occur.  Thankfully their plan was foiled by Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus.  He always has a beard and in the circus he was wearing blue, but he can also wear red and green.  He was accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochkha (Snow Maiden).  It helped to have Michael translate what was going on and provide background on the characters.

The other circus acts included acrobats, a tight rope walker, dogs and tigers.  My favorite act was the bear.  It bordered on animal cruelty, because it seemed that he was drugged. Yet it was entertaining to watch.  See below for the video of him in a hamster wheel. Photography and videography is prohibited, so the video is only 4 seconds long.

The bear also rode a scooter, see picture below, and a bicycle.

To top off the Russian experience, at intermission flags were handed out of Yuri Nikulin, General Manager and Artistic Director of the Moscow Circus from 1982 – 1997, National Artist of the USSR, Socialist Labor Hero, and Laureate of the Russian State Award.  Then at the finale his picture was illuminated above the New Year’s tree.  It felt
very Soviet and made the circus a complete experience.

All and all, it was a great evening.  A true Russian experience.

From Russia with Love, Heather

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